French bank BNP Paribas has been accused of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, after complaints were lodged by three different civil society organisations in French courts on Thursday. The lawsuits allege that the bank knowingly approved a transfer worth $1.3 million from the Rwandan central bank to an arms dealer.
The complaints were lodged by Sherpa, Ibuka France and the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda. Sherpa is an organisation that defends victims of economic crimes, while Ibuka France and the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda are organisations that attempt to pursue claims linked to the Rwandan genocide and provide aid to victims.
The NGO’s that filed the lawsuit stated that Hutu colonel Théoneste Bagosora agreed to purchase close to 80 tonnes of arms and ammunition from a dealer on June 17, 1994. The transaction occurred just one month after the United Nations had placed an embargo on the delivery of weapons to Rwanda, due to political conditions.
These arms were delivered to Gisenyi, a city located near Rwanda’s border, via Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The money was transferred from Rwanda’s national bank to a Swiss bank account held by Willem Tertius Ehlers, a South African who was an intermediary for the arm-dealing brokerage Delta Aero.
The four-month long genocide that occurred after the arms deal resulted in the death of around 8,00,000 people, with a large majority of them being from Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. The bank reached out to Reuters and AFP, saying that it didn’t have adequate information on the incident and that it could not make a statement.